'Don't Throw them Out!' — How to Clean Paint Rollers to Make Them Look as Good as New

Avoid the repurchase and follow these expert tips to refresh your painting tools and keep them in tip-top shape

A colorful living room wall
(Image credit: Pl Studio)

As you embark on your spring cleaning goals, you might feel the itch to give your home a fresh new look. Barring the option of a complete home renovation, there are plenty of ways to refresh your living space. Perhaps you could introduce some new lighting or a few pieces of vibrant decor for a splash of color, but there's nothing like a fresh lick of paint to really elevate the aesthetic of a room. And if you're like us, then you're probably considering the affordable and rather fun option of doing it yourself.

Once the fun is over and you've taken your paint ideas to the walls, we all have to contend with the task of cleaning our tools. Washing your paintbrushes might be a tedious job, but most of us know how it's done. Paint rollers, however, are a different story. Restoring these applicators to their former glory can seem impossible leading many of us to throw them away after just one use, but there really is no need. Here, we've asked some experts what you need to do to make your rollers look brand new.

Expert tips to keep your rollers in tip-top shape

colorful living room with yellow sofa, wall paint effects mural, bookshelf with colorful home accessories - Habitat

(Image credit: Habitat)

When it comes to how to clean a paint brush, sooner is always better, and the same goes for your rollers, too. Paint expert Chuck Reger of Five Star Painting tells us that the cleanup job is significantly easier if you clean the roller immediately after each use as doing so prevents the paint from hardening. 'If you act quickly, you can simply place the rollers in a solution of warm water and dish soap and use a putty knife to rake off any excess paint on the roller,' he says. 'You can then use a cleaning liquid, massage the paint out of the roller, and rinse thoroughly.'

If you happen to have left them coated in paint for longer than advised after finishing up, don't fret. There seems to be hope yet for your paint tools. Chuck advises starting off by rolling it in a cleaning solution along with a bit of solvent, one that caters to the specific paint base that you are working with. 'If you use a harsher chemical like ammonia in place of the solvent, don't forget to wear gloves to protect your hands, and be careful of splashes as it can hurt your skin and ruin your clothes,' he says.

Taking the roller off its handle makes it easier to get every last bit of paint out, and Chuck also suggests putting a putty knife to work. 'The putty knife can help you dislodge the dry chunks of paint before they harden further, further ensuring smooth roll for the next time,' he notes. Once you're done cleaning your painting tools, all that's left is to leave them to dry completely before storing them in an area free from dust.

A colorful home office

(Image credit: Mikhail Loskutov. Studio credit Tim Veresnovsky)

Tila Lee, founder of Pretty In Paint, tells us that you can clean freshly used roller sleeves inside your home under the sink or even outside, using one bucket to clean the sleeve and another to spin the roller. 'When washing brushes or roller sleeves, the best way to check if they are squeaky clean is to keep an eye out for when the water starts to run clear,' she says. 'You can also test the roller on your wrist and if it leaves even the tiniest streak of paint behind, it's best to take it through another wash.'

From weighing out your painting ideas to picking your hues, the tasks leading up to the project are good fun but the after-care of your rollers is just as imperative to the process. So if you have any used paint rollers that you were planning to discard, try and salvage them by giving them a deep clean. Not only is this a step towards living more sustainably, but it's a great way to save yourself from unnecessarily spending on supplies the next time you have a painting project underway.

Our top buys

News Writer

Amiya is the News Writer at Livingetc. She recently graduated with a Masters Degree in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London and has lent her words to beauty, fashion and health sections of lifestyle publications including Harper’s Bazaar and Women’s Health. Her experience as a research analyst has equipped her with an eye for emerging trends. When she’s off the clock, she can be found reading, listening to music or overanalysing her latest Co-Star update.